By: Noah Wright
Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images
The Pirates probably outperformed most baseball fan’s expectations. They’re 2 wins away from having an above .500 season, and their first .500+ season since 2015. But this season’s success couldn’t have been done if it wasn’t for the team’s pitching staff. The bullpen has gotten plenty of attention, but the rotation is one of the most underrated rotations entering 2019, and here’s why.
The Pirates haven’t had an ace level pitcher since 2015 when they had Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano, and A.J. Burnett, but the former prospect, Jameson Taillon has finally been the pitcher The Pirates were hoping he’d eventually become. Taillon has a 3.16 ERA, 3.48 FIP, and 1.178 WHIP in 185 innings. He’s also carried a healthy 8.4 K/9 rate, while lowering his BB/9 rate from 3.1 last season to 2.2 this year. But what he has done that makes him an ace is his last 21 consecutive starts have seen him give up 3 earned runs or less, showing that he’s easily giving The Bucs a chance to win.
The #2 and #3
The #2 and #3 could probably be flipped flopped depending on who you’re asking, but I would put Trevor Williams behind Taillon for multiple reasons. Some reasons may include the fact that he has a 3.04 ERA, or 2.8 BB/9 rate, an MLB career low. Or maybe it’s because of his below .700 OPS against both left handed batters and right handed batters alike. But the real reason I would put him #2 is because of his second half performance. In 66 and two thirds innings, Williams has given The Pirates a 1.06 ERA, .990 WHIP, and 3.02 FIP post break. The third pitcher The Pirates will utilize next season is likely going to be Ivan Nova. Nova’s 4.19 ERA, or 4.57 FIP in 161 innings may not look pretty, but his 2.0 BB/9 walk rate, and one of his lowest hard hit rates (31.5) is what should be looked at. However after a DL stint back in late May, early June, Nova has gone off to record a much better looking 3.71 ERA in 99 and a third innings. His numbers would look even better if his last wasn’t one of his worst since the injury. Nova could easily be a much better pitcher if he just could control the long ball, which he’s given up 26 times.
Saying that Chris Archer is your likely #4 starters is pretty nice. Sure, Archer hasn’t been an ace since 2015, and wasn’t even one after the trade to Pittsburgh, but after a rough first few starts, Archer started to look much better in September. In his 30 innings in September, Archer went on to record a 2.70 ERA, 3.45 ERA, and 1.067 FIP. If Archer can carry that kind of performance, or at least something within the range of a 3.00-3.50 ERA, a FIP similar to that, Archer could be a very valuable asset for The Pirates, and maybe even make-up for the guys they had to give up, and the rough starts in July and August. The #5 starter will more than likely be Joe Musgrove. Musgrove, one of the pieces The Pirates picked up in The Gerrit Cole deal, has been a solid pitcher for the team. He has an overall ERA of 4.06, a decent FIP of 3.58, and WHIP of 1.179 in 115.1 innings of work, and all 19 games coming as a starter. Plus he’s been one of The Pirates best control starters. Joe lowered his walk rate from last year’s 2.3 BB/9 to 1.8 BB/9, while also giving up 18 home runs last season, to 12 home runs in more innings.
The Pirates don’t have the best rotation in The MLB or National League, but it’s one that can easily be overlooked. However if The Pirates want to win next season, their pitching staff, both bullpen and rotation, should be things to build off of next season.